Pethidine: Is it the right labour pain relief option for you?

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Pethidine’s a painkiller with a bad reputation, but with many midwives still using it, and being clever about when they give it, you could find it works wonders for you.

One of the strong painkillers (it’s essentially a ‘narcotic’), pethidine can help you deal with labour pain.

Here's everything you need to know about pethidine...

What is pethidine?

Typically used during the first stage of labour, pethidine is a sedative and a muscle relaxant as you’ll be given a quick jab, usually in the top of your leg or your bum cheek.

It works by blocking the pain receptors to your brain. You’ll feel the effect around 10-15 minutes after having the jab. Give it half an hour and you’ll get the full effect that can stay for up to four hours.

The pros of pethidine:

Pethidine helps you relax and cope with strong contractions, but doesn’t have the numbing effect of an epidural, so you can still move around.

And, if your cervix isn’t dilating, pethidine can help to soften it, making the pushing stage of labour easier. The woozy effect of pethidine means you’ll also inevitably take a nap, giving you energy for later on.

Pethidine helps you relax and cope with strong contractions

The cons:

It can leave you feeling a little ‘removed’ from the tension surrounding contractions and the experience of labour in general.

It’s also not great to have this administered in late labour. That’s because pethidine crosses the placenta, which can affect your baby’s breathing, rooting and sucking reflexes and leave him feeling drowsy, meaning he won’t be keen to feed after birth.

Another downside is that sometimes pethidine causes a baby’s heartbeat to slow slightly during labour. Your midwife will take account of the changes to the heart rate and keep an eye on it using a fetal heart monitor.

Babies with pethidine in their systems are often born floppy and unresponsive and may need to be given some oxygen. Your baby’s leg will be injected with an antidote called ‘Narcan’ to reverse the effects of the pethidine. This usually works within minutes.

Did you use pethidine when in labour? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter!

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